Affiliate Profile: Income Access VP of Strategy Sarafina Wolde Gabriel

We track down some of the most established names in the affiliate space for our Affiliate Profile.
This week, Paysafe Group’s Income Access VP of Strategy Sarafina Wolde Gabriel reflects on her ascent through the industry, discusses the fast paced nature of the affiliate sector and talks the need to embrace new market opportunities.
Affiverse: Can you begin by introducing your history in the affiliate space, and describing how you landed your current role with Income Access?
Sarafina Wolde Gabriel (SWG): I joined Income Access’ affiliate marketing department, our in-house affiliate management team, in 2004 after graduating with a master’s degree in marketing from the University of Surrey, in the UK. At the time, online marketing was in its ascendancy, and there was little written material or content on the affiliate marketing channel, or digital marketing in general. It was both an exciting and fascinating time to join Income Access and the affiliate space.
After managing the affiliate team and then serving as company CMO, I moved into my current role of VP of Strategy following Paysafe Group’s acquisition of Income Access back in September 2016.
AI: How has the affiliate sector changed from when you first became a part of it?
SWG: There has been a lot of change over the 15 years since I entered the world of affiliate marketing. The most prominent change has been the growth and maturing of affiliates – they have evolved from solo businessmen and businesswomen to large and publicly-traded companies. 
There has been significant change in the type of marketing practised by affiliates, namely the surge in mobile marketing and social media marketing. The affiliate space has also become more competitive, the legal environment has changed, and new markets have emerged. 
Affiliates, once seen purely as an acquisition channel, have evolved into also playing a supportive role for operators, and focusing on brand endorsement and customer retention. One aspect that has remained the same is the value and importance of affiliates to a business. They still remain a cost-effective and supportive acquisition and retention partner for any business – both in the gaming industry and beyond.
AI: What advice would you give to budding marketers looking to make their mark on the affiliate space?
SWG: Building and fostering relationships is the most important aspect of effective affiliate marketing. Trust is a key foundation of a successful programme, and my advice would be to always be honest, transparent and professional. Additionally, I would advise marketers to be open to learning new things. Our industry moves at a fast pace and they have to remain abreast of the ever-evolving digital landscape in order to remains effective in their roles.
AI: It’s fair to say that 2018 has been a turbulent year for affiliates. What are your predictions for where the sector is headed?
SWG: I wouldn’t necessarily call it a turbulent year. I would rather say that 2018 has been a year of much change, particularly in the area of compliance for affiliates. 
Our motto at Income Access has always been to embrace change and leverage the advantages the compliance focus brings in terms of promoting responsible gaming. 2018 has also been a great year for the rise of emerging markets and new opportunities for affiliates. Our predictions for the future are that there will be greater innovation in products, and mobile marketing will continue to dominate, particularly in emerging markets. We will also see continued growth in new markets including the US, Africa, India and Latin America. 
AI: And finally, what are your hopes and aspirations for Income Access, both short-term and long-term?
SWG: We hope to continue to innovate our technology products and marketing services, and also remain at the forefront of new market opportunities as well as environmental changes.

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